A Culture of One – Hire for Spirit

Luke Mysse

In my recent talk to a group of business folks at the Kaseya Connect conference, I made three points about culture being part of your brand.

The first of these points was to “Hire for spirit, train for skill.” The basic idea is that you can train for just about any skill, but it’s hard to train someone to have a good attitude. One bad hire can really throw off the mood of an entire office. We all have bad days, but if you have an employee that constantly disrupts your culture, it will also disrupt your brand.

As freelancers, it’s a little different. But I think there are two areas where we sometimes trade spirit for skill.

1. Clients
Bringing in a client solely for financial reasons without figuring their spirit into the equation can negatively impact your own spirit. Yes, we are in business to be profitable. And it’s true that without profits, you will have much bigger problems than just your culture. But I think a client’s spirit has to be considered. Taking a client only for the paycheck can be okay, but are you really going to be inspired to work on their stuff?

You also have to consider what working for a dull client will do to your work as a whole. If Mr. Downer starts interfering with your ability to perform other client duties, it might be time to weigh your options.

2. Work Environment
Where you work can also affect your culture of one. Be sure that you choose a location that isn’t just about the amount of money it costs, or the “skill.” Your work environment needs to have that “spirit,” even if you work from home. You need a place that will keep you charged up and ready to create as needed, and I’ve found that multiple locations work best for me.

When I’m designing, I like being at the office. For conquering email and other admin items, I prefer a public location where I can feed off the energy of others. As an example, this blog post is being written from a favorite dining spot, Taco Asylum. Your working environment influences the work you put out. Experiment and find the best place or places that work for you.

Stick with me as I further discuss the “culture of one” in my next two blog posts. In the meantime, tell me what you think. Do you think there are other areas where freelancers sometimes sacrifice spirit for skill?

(Previous post: A Culture of One – Intro)

6 thoughts on “A Culture of One – Hire for Spirit

  1. Alisa Bonsignore

    “You also have to consider what working for a dull client will do to your work as a whole.”

    As I read this, I keep turning around to see if you’ve been watching over my shoulder. It’s been that kind of month. An unbalanced client load is affecting everything.

  2. Luke Mysse

    I don’t need to look over anyones shoulder to know that we are thinking about the same crap. We never figure in the cost of opportunity. Opportunity to find other clients, opportunity to deliver better work to the ones we like, opportunity to not stress and just sit around and drink coffee….or ride my bike. 🙂 That dull client is costing something…everything costs something.

  3. Alisa Bonsignore

    Excellent example that reared its ugly head today: I may have an opportunity to go to Europe in early June. But I’m drowning under the weight of the Dull Project and don’t know if I can balance those deadlines and commitments with the opportunity that presents itself. This. Is. Killing. Me.

    I’m trying to come up with a workaround, but are the accelerated schedules and tight deadlines worth it? Will I want to go if it means that my crazy meter is cranked to 11?

  4. eljay duncan

    This is the P.I.T.A. factor! Pain in the as you know. . . There is only one way to handle the dull or obstreperous client. Charge more. Charge enough more that you can afford to pay someone else to do the work. Yes, you will have to oversee the project before putting it out the door with your blessings, but at least you don’t loose your precious. Also, you can cultivate worthy apprentices.

  5. Luke Mysse

    Yes, good idea Eljay.

    I have my base pricing which is based on hard numbers like cost of goods, cost of overhead, profit for the business etc. With any project I tally those costs first, I add 10% and that gives me my baseline number…meaning anything below that number and I will loose money. Anything below that number and we will have to reduce the scope of work or something.

    From there I price the project based on value and P.I.T.A. factor. It could be that the client is a pain though I don’t work with many of those anymore fortunately but it could also be that the project is a pain such as a gnarly deadline. When it comes to pricing on value I look what effect the project will have on the clients business. If I make a major improvement on something that effects the bottom line, that is worth more than just the hours I’ve put in.

    Good stuff. Keep the comments coming.